Researching the landscape
By: Steve Ruddy - 18/03/2011
Steve Ruddy travels down under to research plants that will feature in Kew's Australia-themed landscape at the British Museum.
This year's Landscape on the forecourt of the British Museum will focus on the unique flora and landscapes of Australia. Luckily I was despatched by the team to visit Australia over Christmas to gain first hand experience of the natural habitats and plant communities.
Built by Kew and the British Museum, and supported by Rio Tinto, the landscape will highlight the fragile and endangered habitats of Australia, stretching from the east coast, and spanning the red centre to the west coast. No mean feat in 400 square metres!
Plan of this year's Landscape (Image: RBG Kew)
Beginning my epic journey, I flew into the night and arrived sometime later in sunny Melbourne, boarded a flight to Hobart in Tasmania, met with friends, and promptly headed for Mount Wellington to appraise the habitats and gain insights to inform our design.
Mount Wellington, bleached timber and rock (Image: Steve Ruddy)
Whilst travelling around Tasmania (a fantastic landscape) many other ideas and references began to present themselves. Amongst this fascinating flora some noteworthy sightings including Huon Pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii). This is the oldest living tree in Australia, heavily logged for its timber which is golden in colour, easily worked, and has natural anti rotting properties. This plant is very slow growing, only found in the damp southwest of Tasmania and is a protected species. Kew works in partnership with Australia on many conservation projects and seed for this species is banked in the Kew's Millennium Seed Bank.
A lonely specimen of Huon Pine along the King River, Tasmania (Image: Steve Ruddy)
Despite our best efforts we didn’t have time to utilise an offer from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens to feature a small Huon in the display, but stories like that of the Huon pine and the loss of fragile habitats form key messages for the display.
Next stop Western Australia – Perth, with Kings Park as our base and excursions to the Inselburg landscapes…
About Steve, Tony and Richard
Steve Ruddy is Manager of the Garden Development Unit, and is responsible for concept design, planning and delivery of a diverse range of projects, services and activities at Kew.
Tony Hall is responsible for Kew’s Arboretum, managing the globally important plant collections and heritage landscape. Expert in all aspects of plant growth and care, Tony manages the Arboretum Nursery ensuring the collections are safe guarded for the future. You can find out more about his work by following the Arboretum team blog.
Richard Wilford is the Collections Manager in the Hardy Display Section at Kew. His responsibilities include both nursery collections and collections on public display such as the Alpine plants, Grass Garden, Woodland and Rock Garden, and Order Beds at Kew. Richard also frequently contributes to the Alpine and Rock Garden team blog.
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